It's not easy to teach us union.
Garment girls shift like sand, start
too young in the trade, wait for
Prince Charming to take em away.
When I arrived from Russia
my cheeks like apples. And look now!
But talk about a dreaming fool!
Me, thirteen in the Golden Land
longing to work at Life and Love.
Be what you call a builder of bridges.
I'd go back, show all Moscow
a great American lady.
My first position: feeding kerchiefs
to machine. First English sentence:
"Watch your needle -- 3,000 stitches
A minute." I was some swift kid in
those days: seventy-two-hundred
an hour, eighty-six-thousand pieces
A day, four dollars in the pay
envelope -- and that the busy season.
For three months my pay was bread.
I yearned to earn wages, save my
little sister's passage, I was so
lonely in America. Soon like the rest
I grieved at my machine, swore I'd
marry any old man just to get out.
One by one the others left to marry
And returned to Triangle. I saw
my future in a white heat light
no dreams could soften.
Thanks to the folks at Friday’s Folklore for sharing this poem; click here to subscribe.